Spotlight on Historical Context – Creating A Transcendentalist Utopia

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If it weren’t for the Transcendentalist, the summer of 1969 and the Hippie Communes of the 1970’s may have never happened – the idea of communal living and finding a ‘heaven on earth’ didn’t start in the 20th century, but way back in the 1840’s.

In the 1840s, Boston’s West Roxbury suburb — which was completely rural at the time — was home to an experiment in transcendentalist utopian living: the Brook Farm community. The idea was to create an environment of balance and equality. But as is often the case when a group of people unprepared for the realities of living off the land try to live off the land, the Brook Farm Community wasn’t a completely successful endeavor. Many famous Transcendentalist are connected to Brook Farm – Nathaniel Hawthorne lived there, and Emerson was invited on multiple occasions. Additionally, many of the women at Brookfarm were able to experience more personal freedoms than they had at any other point in their lives, contributing to the first wave of Feminism and the Women’s Suffrage Movement that was taking off in America.

Click here to listen to the podcast about the Brook Farm Community – A Transcendental Heaven on Earth

0520417cc1f0f804f082843ee3a6dacdIn addition to Brookfarm, there was also Fruitland, the community start by educational reformer and Transcendentalist Bronson Alcott. That name may be familiar as his daughter, Louisa May Alcott, is a famous Transcendentalist herself and author of the novel Little Women. The Alcott family lived in Concord, Massachusetts and was connected to many of the most famous Transcendentalist of the day – Hawthorne was good friends with Bronson, and bailed him out of debt on many occasions; Louisa was neighbors with Emerson, and would visit Thoreau at his cabin on Walden Pond, bringing him fresh wildflowers. The Alcott’s serve as a reminder that the Transcendental movements brought new ideas not just about scholarship and philosophy, but also education, slavery and women’s rights.

Click here to listen to the podcast on Bronson Alcott

And click here to listen to the podcast on Louisa May Alcott

Mrs Pierce Recommends

Emerson – The Father of Transcendenalism

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In class today we began our study of the Transcendentalist – a group of close knit free-thinkers and non-conformist, largely from Massachusetts, that changed the future of American Literature. Please see the video below for the background notes on Transcendentalism, as well as background information on Emerson.

In class we are reading  his tenth essay, ‘Circles’, and completing an in-depth analysis of the extended metaphor of the circle and how Emerson connects the ideas of Nature, The Individual, Society, and God/Spirituality.

Please click below to access copies of the essay from class.

Click here to access ‘Circles’.

See below for images from our notes and discussion in class:

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11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

The Early Romantics – The Fireside Poets

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Until the third decade of the 19th century, America had little literature to call its own. Fireside poets represented a “coming of age” for the young country, as a first generation of poets took their name from the popularity of their works which were widely read as family entertainment (and in the schoolroom). These poets chose uniquely American settings and subjects, but their themes, meter, and imagery, however, were borrowed from  English tradition. Though not innovative, they were literary giants of their day, and by examining their poems for images of American daily life, politics and nature we can see the beginnings of the Romantic writings that follow.

 

You will be examining the poetry of  fireside poets – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendall Holmes, James Russell Lowell and William Cullen Bryant.

 

The Mount of the Holy Cross – Colorado

Longfellow is by far the most famous of the Fireside Poets. No other American poet, not even Robert Frost, has matched Longfellow’s popularity at the height of his career. A bust of Longfellow was placed in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey (alongside Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton. Longfellow was a classmate of Nathaniel Hawthorn. He believed his task was to create in memorable form a common heritage for Americans and in the process to create an audience for poetry.

 

Picture1You should remember Bryant from our unit over Expansionism in American Literature, as we read his news article ‘On the Right to Strike’. The fame he won as a poet while in his youth remained with him as he entered his eighties; only Longfellow and Emerson were his rivals in popularity over the course of his life. He wrote poems, essays, and articles that championed the rights of workers and immigrants. In 1829, Bryant became editor in chief of the New York Evening Post, a position he held until his death in 1878. His influence helped establish important New York civic institutions such as Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1884, New York City’s Reservoir Square, at the intersection of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, was renamed Bryant Park in his honor. “Thanatopsis,” if not the best-known American poem abroad before the mid nineteenth century, certainly ranked near the top of the list, and at home school children were commonly required to recite it from memory. At his death, all New York City went into mourning for its most respected citizen.

John Greenleaf Whittier was the son of two devout Quakers, he grew up on the family farm and had little formal schooling. From 1831 until the Civil War, he wrote essays and articles as well as poems, almost all of which were concerned with abolition. In 1833 he wrote Justice and Expedience urging immediate abolition. In 1834 he was elected as a Whig for one term to the Massachusetts legislature; mobbed and stoned in Concord, New Hampshire, in 1835. He moved in 1836 to Amesbury, Massachusetts, where he worked for the American Anti-Slavery Society. Whittier founded the antislavery Liberty party in 1840 and ran for Congress in 1842. While Whittier’s critics never considered him to be a great poet, they thought him a nobel and kind man whose verse gave unique expression to ideas they valued. The Civil War inspired the famous poem, “Barbara Frietchie,” but the important change in his work came after the war. From 1865 until his death in 1892, Whittier wrote of religion, nature, and rural life; he became the most popular Fireside poets

James Russell Lowell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Charles Lowell and Harriet Spence. An ardent abolitionist, Lowell published widely in many anti-slavery newspapers, such as the Pennsylvania Freeman and the Anti-Slavery Standard. He also published a number of literary essays, political pamphlets, and satirical works, such as The Biglow Papers, a series of satirical verses written in opposition to the Mexican War. In 1853, Lowell’s wife and three of their four children fell ill and died. Two years later, he returned to Harvard to replace Longfellow as professor of modern languages and literature. He spent the following year traveling and studying in Europe, then returned to Harvard to teach for the next twenty years. Known for his politics and personal charm, Lowell was appointed to the position of United States Minister to Spain in 1877, then served as United States Minister to England from 1880 to 1885.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. was an American physician, poet, and polymath based in Boston. A member of the Fireside Poets, he was acclaimed by his peers as one of the best writers of the day.  He was also an important medical reformer. In addition to his work as an author and poet, Holmes also served as a physician, professor, lecturer, and inventor, and although he never practiced it, he received formal training in law. He began writing poetry at an early age; one of his most famous works, “Old Ironsides”, was published in 1830 and was influential in the eventual preservation of the USS Constitution. Following training at the prestigious medical schools of Paris, Holmes was granted his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1836. He taught at Dartmouth Medical School before returning to teach at Harvard and, for a time, served as dean there. During his long professorship, he became an advocate for various medical reforms and notably posited the controversial idea that doctors were capable of carrying puerperal fever from patient to patient. Holmes retired from Harvard in 1882 and continued writing poetry, novels and essays until his death in 1894.

Below you will find the link to the poems you will be analyzing. Remember, you need to not only analyze the poem in depth, but be sure to make connections between the content of these poems and the ideals of the Romantic/Transcendental writers we will be reading later.

Click here to access the poems in case you lost your hardcopy from class.

Click here to review the rubric you will need to use for your presentation.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

American Romanticism

The “Romantic Period” refers to literary and cultural movements in England, Europe, and America roughly from 1770 to 1860.  Romantic writers (and artists) saw themselves as revolting against the “Age of Reason” (1700-1770) and its values.  They celebrated imagination/intuition versus reason/calculation, spontaneity versus control, subjectivity and metaphysical musing versus objective fact, revolutionary energy versus tradition, individualism versus social conformity, democracy versus monarchy, and so on.

Other elements that influenced the writing of the Romantic period was that the frontier promised opportunity for expansion, growth, freedom (which Europe lacked as it had nothing new to ‘discover’); the spirit of optimism invoked by the promise of an uncharted frontier; the new cultures and perspectives brought in by immigration; the polarization of the industrial north and agrarian south;
and the growth of secularism that had begun in the Puritan Era, and now resulted in Americans looking for new spiritual roots.

As we have discussed in class multiple times, it is very hard to define literary movements are draw a clear line between when this literary era began and ended and when another starts. This is very true for the Romantic period.  Early writers in the Romantic periods are often identified as The Fireside Poets -the first group of American poets to rival British poets in popularity in either country. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier,Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and William Cullen Bryant are the poets most commonly grouped together as the ‘Fireside Poets’. Their strict focus on form and meter make their writer seem very British and Victorian when contrasted with later Romantics, but the content of their poetry usually focuses on uniquely American images (images of nature or the frontier,American home life and contemporary politics ). In general, these poets preferred conventional forms over experimentation, and this attention to rhyme and strict metrical cadences made their work popular for memorization and recitation in classrooms and homes. At the peak of his career, Longfellow’s popularity rivaled Lord Alfred Tennyson’s in England as well as in America, and he was a noted translator and scholar in several languages—in fact, he was the first American poet to be honored with a bust in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner.

Emerson and Thoreau, along with Margaret Fuller, are a part of a literary/philosophical/theological movement known as “Transcendentalism” (they had their own literary magazine, The Dial, which Fuller edited).  They privileged imagination and wanted to resuscitate spiritual values in a era in which institutional religion dominated (or so they felt).  According to them, we are, if we only knew it, Gods in ruin, with the power to regain our spiritual birthright by attending to the divine within. Walt Whitman is also a Transcendental writer, and heavily influenced by Emerson – however, his unique style separates him from other Transcendental writers. As the longest living Romantic writer, Whitman published well into the 1880’s, and later in life readers can see a definite shift in his writings that reflect the work of other Realist (the period after Romanticism)

Dickinson, Melville, Hawthorne and Poe however, were not Transcendentalists, and often (implicitly or explicitly) critique Emersonian idealism. Melville, Hawthorne and Poe are often categorized as ‘Dark Romantics’. Dark Romantics are much less confident about the notion perfection is an innate quality of mankind, as believed by Transcendentalists. They believe that individuals are prone to sin and self-destruction, not as inherently possessing divinity and wisdom. Secondly, while both groups believe nature is a deeply spiritual force, Dark Romanticism views it in a much more sinister light than does Transcendentalism, which sees nature as a divine. For these Dark Romantics, the natural world is dark, decaying, and mysterious; when it does reveal truth to man, its revelations are evil and hellish. Finally, whereas Transcendentalists advocate social reform when appropriate, works of Dark Romanticism frequently show individuals failing in their attempts to make changes for the better.

If all of this sounds really confusing, as all of these periods and genres seems to be overlapping and happening simultaneously, hopefully this graphic will help:

Romanticism Bubbles

Make sure you have a clear understanding of Romanticism and its various sub-genres before we return from fall break! For all of my audio/visual kids out there, please click the link below to watch a short video that covers the Romantic period!

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

Andrew Jackson – On Indian Removal, and The Trail of Tears

As we examine the effects of manifest destiny on the American identity, we must also remember to pay attention to how westward expansion and the resulting idea of ‘America’ affected the country’s native inhabitants.

Since the beginning of the course we have examined the representations of the Native Americans in early American texts and literature. As we approach the end of American westward expansion and enter into the Romantic period of American literature, it is important to examine multiple perspectives surrounding the Indian Removal Act and Trail of Tears to have a richer understanding of this important event and the rhetoric surrounding it.

Please view the videos below for contextual information that will help you analyze these documents:

Below you will find a the link to our reading materials for this assignment – 11 different documents over the removal of the Native Americas of the southeast by the Indian Removal Act. The documents include:

  • The Cherokee Constitution of 1827
  • A first person account from a Cherokee tribesman on the success of the ‘civilizing’ project among the Cherokee
  • Andrew Jackson’s Second State of the Union Address
  • “To the Cherokee Tribe of Indians”, from Andrew Jackson
  • The memorial of a delegation of the Cherokee Nation of Indians
  • A petition by ladies of Steubenville, OH, against Indian removal
  • A memorial and protest of the Cherokee Nation
  • John Burnett’s Story of The Trail of Tears
  • Letter from Chief John Ross defending the Cherokee’s right to their land
  • Letter to the Cherokee’s from Major General Scott

As you read these documents, be sure to analyze the use of rhetoric and pay attention to the author’s choices in regards to diction and syntax. You will need to complete SOAPSTone Plus analysis for the documents and a series of constructed responses that cite textual evidence.

Click here to access the documents.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

The Foreign Mission School and Religious Tolerance in America

The relationship between earlier settlers, and later Americans, and the Native inhabitants of this country is an ongoing topic that we revisit in the texts we study in class.  In our class discussions we have noted the use of stereotypes when referring the Native Americans – the term ‘Native America’ itself in its homogeneous application, the ‘Noble Savage’ and ‘Wise Chief’, the ‘Indian Princess’ and the ‘Squaw’ and the barbarous ‘Savage’. We have also discuss how the Native American individuals themselves also seemed to purposely play into these stereotypes knowing that, unless they appeared to fulfill the preconceived notions of the white settlers and early Americans, there was a greater chance of their protests and pleas being ignored (See the post over Red Jacket’s speech for more information on this).

While many of the founders of the nation practiced Deist principals regarding religion, Christianity was still the dominant religion and touchstone for most Americans. The conflict between Puritan ideals and the Catholics and Quakers eventually shifted into the conflict between Protestants and all other religions (even other sects of Christianity) by the time of expansionism. In the early days of settlement, the conversion of the Native American was seen as a vital step to ‘civilizing’ the new world (as we discussed in our readings of Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity Narrative and Ben Franklin’s ‘Notes Concerning the Savages’), and as America set her eyes westward to expand, so the need to convert and assimilate the Native people of the American west to Christianity became another vital step in expansion.

One of the earliest accounts of this attempt at conversion took place at The Foreign Mission School. As we discuss and analyze the writings of Native American and Hawaiian students of this school, it is important to have a deeper understand of its history and historical context.

The Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut was founded with the plan that it would draw young men from world cultures, educate them, convert them to Christianity, and then send them back to their native lands to spread their new found religion.

And click here to read and listen to a recent interview with the author of the new book “The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Early Republic” and read a short excerpt from the book

 

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Elias Boudinot

We we be examining the letters of two Cherokee students at The Foreign Mission School, David Brown and Elias Boudinot, to a Swiss Baron that wanted to fund the school. These letters were written at the insistence of the school’s principal who claimed that the letters were the students’ own writing except for the changing of “a very few words”.

Click here to read the letters of The Foreign Mission School students.

You will be working together in small groups to conduct a rhetorical analysis of the letters, focusing on the syntax, diction and rhetorical devices used by the students of the mission school to achieve their purpose of securing further funding for the school. Be prepared as a class the effectiveness of the author’s writing during the time period and compare that to its effectiveness to a modern readership. Also be able to discuss the reliability of the letter as a primary source document, and  cite specific evidence from the text that adds or detracts from its credibility.

Click here to listen to the podcast episode over ‘The Heathen School’. 

  • How does the school to achieve their purpose of securing further funding for the school?
  • How would you rate the effectiveness of the author’s writing during the time period and compare that to its effectiveness to a modern readership?
  • Cite specific evidence from the text that adds or detracts from its credibility.

*Note: If you are interested in researching or learning more about the issue of religious tolerance in America, this article from The Smithsonian can provide a jumping off point for more information – Click here for the Smithsonian article.’

Click here to review our in-class annotations over the Foreign Mission School letters.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

Analyzing Rhetoric – Republican Motherhood and Early Women’s Reform

After analyzing how a speaker’s adopted ‘persona’ impacts their use of rhetoric through an examination of a series of letters by Thomas Jefferson, you will now look at how different speakers with the same persona use a variety of different rhetorical devices based on differing audiences.

During the Expansionist period of American Literary History, we see an up-tick in writings by women, as they took to the factories to work or began to desire the opportunities for advanced education and more equal protection under the law. These were only the very early beginnings of what would later be the reform movement of ‘Women’s Suffrage’ – while women of this period did desire change for their circumstances, they still largely delivered in the idea of ‘Republican Womanhood’ and ‘The Cult of Domesticity’. Please remember this context as you analyze the documents – their ideals are not exactly the same as women of the suffrage movement, progressive era movements or 20th century feminism that you might already be familiar with. To conduct an accurate analysis you need to make sure you understand the historical context for these documents!

Republican Motherhood believed that women should run a household “where children are raised to value patriotism and the sacrificing of their own needs for the greater good of the country. By doing so, the mothers would encourage their sons to pursue liberty and roles in the government, while their daughters would perpetuate the domestic sphere with the next generation. In addition, women were permitted to receive more of an education than they previously had been allowed” in the past, in order to educate their own children.

The Cult of Domesticity “identified the home as women’s “proper sphere”. Women were supposed to inhabit the private sphere, running the household and production of food (including servants), rearing the children, and taking care of the husband. […] True Women” were to hold and practice the four cardinal virtues:

  • Piety – Religion was valued because—unlike intellectual pursuits—it did not take a woman away from her “proper sphere,” the home, and because it controlled women’s longings.
  • Purity – Virginity, a woman’s greatest treasure, must not be lost until her marriage night, and married women had to remain committed only to their husbands.
  • Submission – True women were required to be as submissive and obedient “as little children” because men were regarded as women’s superiors “by God’s appointment”.
  • Domesticity – A woman’s proper place was in the home and her role as a wife was to create a refuge for her husband and children. Cooking, needlework, making beds, and tending flowers were considered naturally feminine activities, whereas reading anything other than religious biographies was discouraged.”

If you need the background notes from the 1st half of the video we viewed in class, please see it below:

In your groups you have been assigned one of three documents:

  • A poem, “On Equality of the Sexes” by Judith Sargent Murray
  • An excerpt from a formal report, “What is the profession of a Woman?” by Catherine Beecher
  • An excerpt from a piece of journalism, “A real picture of factory life” by an anonymous female factory worker.

You will be responsible for not only analyzing the use of rhetoric in these documents, but you must also create a visual analysis of the text that can be used as a teaching tool, which will provide your classmates and others with all the necessary contextual information to understand your analysis, and a step-by-step walkthrough of your analysis. You will then teach this analysis to the class in small groups – you must be able to answer questions from classmates and create a five question quiz for them to take. Finally, after all groups have been taught the lesson, you will work together as a class to explain the difference between each of the women’ use of rhetoric.

Please click here to access the project assignment sheet and the grading rubric.

Additionally, I’ve copied some texts about the time period if you have trouble pulling enough research for your ‘context’ section of the project. Feel free to use these for you references!

Click to access documents and texts that provide context for the period. 

 

 

You all did an amazing job analyzing your assigned texts and presenting your information to the class. Please see the links below to access your classmates’ presentations and notes:

On the Equality of the Sexes Powerpoint 1

Equality of the Sexes Powerpoint 2

Equality of the Sexes Handout

Equality of the Sexes Contextual Information

Lowell Mill Girls Protest Powerpoint 1

Lowell Mill Girls Protest Powerpoint 2

What is the Profession of Women?  Powerpoint 1

What is the Profession of Women? Powerpoint 2

 

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017